Whoever Said ‘Mother Hen’ Got it Wrong

mother hen

As a young girl, I never felt the pull to motherhood. I assumed I would have a family but I never played dolls or spent my days babysitting. In fact, the first diaper I ever changed was my own daughter’s. Now, I am not a bad mother in the least. I love my children and I care and nurture them. I can be dragged to play every now and then and frequently tell myself that my encouragements of “go play by yourself” are creating independence in my kids, not neglect.

No, I am not a bad mother. But maybe not the best.

I will often watch other moms play with their kids, seeming to enjoy the experience. Much like watching a strange animal in the zoo, it confounds me. Or seeing mothers stoop down low to listen intently, and answer their child with care and attention, I find that extraordinary. Like witnesses first contact between human and alien beings.

I love my kids, I do, and for years I felt guilt over my ability to “mother hen” my kids like so many others do.

Until I actually saw a mother hen that is.

Along with our three kids we raise forty chickens, and a bundle of other hoofed, footed and winged creatures and through these days on the farm, nature progresses and babies are born.

Our first chick hatched to a lovely hen. She was nurturing and attentive, never leaving her eggs for the three weeks it took them to hatch. She barely ate, sacrificing much of her health to bring life to these little eggs.

Once her bundles of fluff were out, she would beckon them, feed them, and keep them safe. She was willing to toss herself in harms way and I saw her commitment to her young.

At week five though, everything changed. She was now surrounded by tween chickens, gawky and (I am guessing) obnoxious. She tried to distance herself, but they just kept following. You could read the exhaustion in her eyes.

One day she was just done. She walked away from these little beings that she had brought life and tapped out. She didn’t look their way again. They no longer existed to her.

And then the rooster took over. He took the reigns, and the weight of responsibility.

And I realized that the saying is a lie. Being a “mother hen” doesn’t mean you are your chicks everything. In fact, as a mother, the last thing I would ever dream to be is a mother hen,

To give everything of myself so that I am empty and done. To be so drained that all I can do is walk away? No, that isn’t motherhood.

Motherhood is more about balancing our strengths in parenting with our partner, in seeing our purpose and value, and loving, unconditionally and forever.

I believe that these little sayings, the lies that build up from society of who we should be as mothers, how we should feel and act, they all add up to make us feel unworthy. To feel like failures.

I have chosen to not let society define my role as a mother. I am good and bad. I am loving and neglectful. I will make many mistakes in parenting my children, but my only hope is that none of the mistakes I make will be ones that matter to me.

I will not be a mother hen, but I will be my own kind of mother.

This post originally appeared on 3 Chickens and a Boat. Reprinted with permission.

Julie is a rock star mom living on an island surrounded by chickens, goats and her 3 kiddos. You can find her at 3 Chickens and a Boat

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